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Viewpoint: Workshop days more than just a day off

When I looked at the school calendar as a kid, the only things that caught my attention were the days emblazoned with the words "No School" or "Teacher Workshop Day." To me and my classmates, those workshop days meant sleeping in late, long lazy mornings, and a full day of playing with friends.

I, like so many students and community members, had absolutely no idea what happened inside the school walls on days reserved for professional development.

It wasn't until years later when I started my own teaching career that I came to know the benefits of professional development. My very first year of teaching, I attended a middle school conference where I was able to learn directly from other eighth grade science teachers just like me. They shared their challenges, offered advice on their successes, and provided encouragement, support and hope to a novice teacher.

Similar experiences throughout my career helped me to stay focused, bring new opportunities and experiences into the classroom and enhance the quality of instruction I offered my students.

While students in the Stillwater Area Public School District may find reason to celebrate late start days and other teacher workshops throughout the year, it's important for our community to understand the value of these days to our staff.

For years, our district has offered our teachers outstanding opportunities to grow and develop in their profession. We recognize that the performance of our students is directly related to the performance of our staff.

That is why we work hard to ensure our teachers are not only highly-qualified, but more importantly, that they are highly-effective. We continually strive to provide our teachers with the training, resources, and support they need to motivate and inspire all of our students.

During the six late start days held during this school year, our teachers are working together to increase the quality of classroom assessments, enhance consistency in courses across the district, and further individualize instruction to meet the needs of each student.

Our district-wide professional development day in January provides numerous opportunities for our teachers to learn new ways to integrate technology into their instruction.

Other opportunities, both during the school year and over the summer, allow our teachers to talk to one another, learn about our curriculum, share ideas, and collaborate on projects.

The very best teachers are ones who never stop learning for themselves. Professional development helps to refresh and revitalize our teaching staff, while allowing them to keep up on the latest instructional strategies and curriculum changes.

By providing the very best in professional development opportunities to our staff, we're ensuring the district's proud tradition of excellence in student achievement will continue for generations to come.

Ryskoski is School District 834 superintendent and can be reached at